Monthly Archives: November 2015

“Democratic AG’s Group Avoids Contempt, Files In Arizona As “Political Committee” …From 2010″

Arizona’s Politics:

In advance of a contempt hearing today, the national Democratic Attorneys General Association (“DAGA”) gave in and registered their blandly-named 2010 Arizona “Committee For Justice & Fairness” (“CJF”) as a “political committee” with the Secretary of State’s Office. The finance reports also filed showed no surprises, although AZ Secretary of State Michele Reagan had expressed hope they would.

The filings represent one of the final chapters in a five-year book that began with vicious attacks against the soon-to-be Attorney General Tom Horne by a group of Attorneys General trying to remain undercover. It then became a stretched-out legal battle over whether Arizona law was tough enough to force the group to file.

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Sheldon Silver Convicted of Political Corruption, But Will the Conviction Stand?


Sheldon Silver, an assemblyman who rose from the Lower East Side to become one of New York State’s most powerful politicians, was found guilty on Monday in a federal corruption trial, ending a case that was the capstone of the government’s efforts to expose the seamy culture of influence peddling in Albany.

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#SCOTUS: What’s Next in the Hawaii Election Case Whose Vote Counting Justice Kennedy Enjoined Friday?

As I reported on Friday, Justice Kennedy, in his capacity as Circuit Justice for the Ninth Circuit, has enjoined the counting of ballots in an upcoming election in which only those with Native Hawaiian ancestry may vote. Adam Liptak reported for the NY Times on the case, and I pondered whether the order itself might affect voting, which concludes today. (After all, a person should be less likely to vote if he or she believes it is fairly likely the votes will never be counted.)

As I noted in an update to my original post, and as Lyle Denniston noted in his post at SCOTUSBlog, Justice Kennedy’s order hinted at further action.  It reads: “IT IS ORDERED that the respondents are enjoined from counting the ballots cast in, and certifying the winners of, the election described in the application, pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.” Lyle writes: “Because of the holiday weekend, it may be that the full Court will consider the matter further when the Court returns to public sessions next Monday.  In the meantime, the cast ballots may not be opened for counting and the outcome cannot be certified officially.”

The Court’s docket shows the briefing on the emergency application is complete, but Justice Kennedy’s order contemplates a further order. I expect within a few days we will get another order from the entire Court, with the holiday weekend over. Justice Kennedy’s order seemed intended to keep the status quo (but I think it actually could be affecting voting). It would not surprise me to see Justice Kennedy’s order extended, and perhaps even the case set for full briefing and argument, although the Court may keep the stay in place and give the Ninth Circuit the first crack at a full decision in this case. Sooner or later, though, I expect the Court will address the merits in this fascinating and important case.

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#SCOTUS Rejects Another Challenge to Campaign Finance Disclosure and Disclaimer Rules

AP report on today’s cert. denial in a campaign finance case out of Hawaii. (Here is the cert. petition from Jim Bopp.) As I wrote in my earlier coverage of this case:

A important unanimous decision by Judge Fisher (joined by Kozinski and Watford) in the 9th Circuit as a challenge to the federal contractor ban remains pending. The 9th Circuit held the ban satisfied exacting scrutiny, even after McCutcheon, and even though it is a ban, rather than a limit on contributions, citing the danger of pay to play.

The bulk of the opinion also upheld a variety of reporting, disclaimer, and disclosure requirements required by Hawaii law. And the court included dicta affirming the special importance of disclosure in the Citizens United era:

Although not directly relevant to A-1’s challenge – because A-1’s political activities are self-financed and it receives no contributions – we also note the heightened importance of noncandidate committee disclosure requirements now that the limit on contributions to noncandidate committees has been permanently enjoined. A single contributor may provide thousands of dollars to independent committees, and yet avoid disclosing its identity if the committee makes all the expenditures itself. The noncandidate committee definition acts to ensure that the contributor’s identity will be disclosed to the voting public. Hawaii’s efforts to provide transparency would be incomplete if disclosure was not required in such circumstances.

The opinion is in A-1 A-Lectrician v. Snipes.


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Ned Foley Stocking Stuffer

What do you give the election law nerd who has everything?

I’d suggest Ned Foley’s new book, Ballot Battles. I’ve read this in draft and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know how we’ve handled close and crucial elections throughout the Nation’s history.  It didn’t start (nor will it end) with Bush v. Gore.

Ned will be guest blogging soon about his great book. It is careful, scholarly, and entertaining.

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Must-Read Nick Confessore on Money in Illinois Politics in the Citizens United Era

Deep dive in the New York Times on the rise of our emerging plutocracy and the lack of capacity of campaign finance laws to deal with it:

The families remaking Illinois are among a small group around the country who have channeled their extraordinary wealth into political power, taking advantage of regulatory, legal and cultural shifts that have carved new paths for infusing money into campaigns. Economic winners in an age of rising inequality, operating largely out of public view, they are reshaping government with fortunes so large as to defy the ordinary financial scale of politics. In the 2016 presidential race, a New York Times analysis found last month, just 158 families had provided nearly half of the early campaign money.

Many of those giving, like Mr. Griffin, come from the world of finance, an industry that has yielded more of the new political wealth than any other. The Florida-based leveraged-buyout pioneer John Childs, the private equity investor Sam Zell and Paul Singer, a prominent New York hedge fund manager, all helped elect Mr. Rauner, as did Richard Uihlein, a conservative businessman from the Chicago suburbs.

Most of them lean Republican; some are Democrats. But to a remarkable degree, their philosophies are becoming part of a widely adopted blueprint for public officials around the country: Critical of the power of unions, many are also determined to reduce spending and taxation, and are skeptical of government-led efforts to mitigate the growing gap between the rich and everyone else….

To bring about a revolution in the Illinois Capitol, in Springfield, Mr. Rauner and his allies have created what amounts to a new campaign economy, in which union money has long been the financial lifeblood of both parties. Contributing millions to his own campaign, Mr. Rauner triggered a state law that removes limits on campaign contributions when a wealthy candidate spends heavily on his or her own race.

The law, intended to limit the influence of the wealthy by providing a level playing field, had the opposite effect: Freed of the restraints, supporters of Mr. Rauner poured millions more into his campaign, breaking state records. About half of the $65 million he spent through last year’s election came from himself and nine other individuals, families or companies they control. Mr. Quinn, the incumbent, spent about $32 million, with many unions making mid-six-figure contributions.

Mr. Rauner’s biggest donor was Mr. Griffin, who gave $5.5 million and put his private plane at Mr. Rauner’s disposal. Mr. Rauner’s allies spent millions on political advocacy groups, research organizations and party committees. The Chicago Sun-Times reversed its no-endorsement policy to back Mr. Rauner, who was a part-owner of the paper before he ran for governor.
“He didn’t have to play by the same rules as other candidates,” said Bill Hyers, the chief strategist to Mr. Quinn. “He just kept on spending.”

Never before in modern Illinois politics had so few people provided so much of the money for campaigns. The size of the average contribution in last year’s general election almost tripled over those made in the previous governor’s race, according to a Times analysis of campaign records collected by Illinois Sunshine, a project of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform….
Around the same time that Mr. Rauner began running for governor, a group of researchers based at Northwestern University published findings from the country’s first-ever representative survey of the richest one percent of Americans. The study, known as the Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good, canvassed a sample of the wealthy from the Chicago area. Those canvassed were granted anonymity to discuss their views candidly.

Their replies were striking. Where merely affluent Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, the ultrawealthy overwhelmingly leaned right. They are far more likely to raise money for politicians and to have access to them; nearly half had personally contacted one of Illinois’s two United States senators.

Where the general public overwhelmingly supports a high minimum wage, the one percent are broadly opposed. A majority of Americans supported expanding safety-net and retirement programs, while most of the very wealthy opposed them. And while Americans are not enthusiastic about higher taxes generally, they feel strongly that the rich should pay more than they do, and more than everyone else pays.

“Probably the biggest single area of disconnect has to do with social welfare programs,” said Benjamin I. Page, a political scientist at Northwestern University and a co-author of the study. “The other big area has to do with paying for those programs, particularly taxes on high-income and wealthy people.”

Illinois, Mr. Page added, is “a case study of the disconnect in action — between what average citizens want the government to do and what it does.”

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“Donors gave a super PAC $6 million. Candidates actually got about $140,000.”


Before he entered the race for the White House, Ben Carson signed on to a campaign to raise money to fight Obamacare. When Juanita McMillon saw his name, she was eager to get out her checkbook.

“I think he is sincere, and I think he is honest, and I think he is exactly what we need,” said McMillon, 80, from the small town of De Kalb in northeast Texas. She gave $350.

Her money went to the American Legacy PAC, an organization with ties to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. With Carson as the face of its Save Our Healthcare campaign, American Legacy raised close to $6 million in 2014 — and spent nearly all of it paying the consultants and firms that raised the money. Just 2% was donated to Republican candidates and committees, financial reports show.

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